Karmamudra Practice | Tantra Techniques

Tantric Loving | Karmamudra Partner


Karmamudra is a Sanskrit word which means either “action seal”, “desire seal” or “love seal”. Karmamudra is the equivalent of the Tibetan word “las kyi phyag rgya”. Karmamudra is one of the Tantra techniques, collectively known as Vajrayana, associated with Buddhahood. Karmamudra is a synthesis of two words: “karma” and “mudra”. “Karma” which means sexual while “mudra” means a partner. Thus, karmamudra practice is the use of consorts, either physical or visualized, to transcend normal passion and bring out a blissful natural passion.


Physical Karmamudra Partner and Visualized Karmamudra Partner

The literal meaning of Karmamudra is a sexual yoga practice. It is a tantric technique. The sexual technique can involve either sexual intercourse with a partner or an imagined sexual partner. A real sexual partner or, better yet, physical karmamudra partner, is known simply as karmamudra. However, if the sexual partner is imagined or, better yet, a visualized consort, it is referred to as jnanamudra.

Importance of Karmamudra Practice

Karmamudra transcends the procreational and recreational aspects of sex. As a tantric technique, karmamudra uses upaya-kaushalya. The Buddhist terms “upaya” and “kaushalya” mean expedient and cleverness, respectively. Used together, the terms mean “skill-in-means”. The person practicing karmamudra is liberated spiritually, referred to as samsara.

According to professor Judith Simmer-Brown, a scholar with extensive knowledge about Buddhism, karmamudra can ably help bring out the natural passion. In the book titled “The Six Yogas of Naropa”, Simmer-Brown observes thus: In the context of tantrism, natural passion is customarily three-pronged–creation-phase, tummo, and sexual yoga.

In the first way, creation-phase or generation stage, the technique helps the practitioner achieve a visualization of the yidam (the tantric deity) as a yab-yum in the copulation. Yab-yum is Buddhist symbol which implies sexual activity between a male and female. In the second stage, called tummo in Tibet and Candali in Sanskrit, the aim is the practitioner taking the helm of their body process. At this stage, the practitioner arouses the psycho-spiritual function, the subtle body, which helps the phowa (the central channel) breath. The third stage is the actual karmamudra or “lekyi chagya” which both refer to the appropriately named sexual yoga. By accomplishing the three aforementioned stages, the practitioner is able to exceed the normal passion and, in its stead, achieve a moment of great passion or pleasure; this is called “Dem Chog” or “Maha-sukha” in Tibetan and Sanskrit, respectively. In doing so, the practitioner is also able to overcome the psychogenic baggage.

The karmamudra technique was greatly revered by ancient gurus of the Six Dhamas of Naropa. On one hand, a section of the experts lobbied for the practicing of the karmamudra technique as a standalone. On the other hand, there were experts who opined that karmamudra was to be classified under tummo or candali yoga. Karmamudra is an integral section of four different practices: the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Lamdre meditative system , Kalachakra teachings, and Anuyoga practice.

Physical Karmamudra as a Requisite


It is generally agreed among Tibetan Buddhist experts that karmamudra is crucial in the context of getting an insight in this life. Renowned scholars who have held such sentiments include the Tibetan lama called Thubten Yeshe. On the flip side, a section of lamas, notably the 14th Dalai Lama, have expressed opposing views; Dalai Lama, for instance, shrugs off the opinion that a physical karmamudra partner is a must-have primordial. To support his opinion, Dalai Lama cites Khedrup Norsang Gyatso, a 15th century scholar, who opined that practitioners affiliated with some spiritual faculties can realize similar goals using a visualize consort only.

Requirements for Practitioners

Incidentally, Tibetan Buddhism has a laundry list of schools of thought. These schools are Bon, Sakya, Nyingma, Gelug, Kagyu, Rime, Jonang, and Kadam. The New Translation schools of thought are Jonang, Kagyu, Kadam, Gelug, and Sakya. In these schools, there are practitioners classified under the action, performance, and yoga tantras; these are collectively known as tantra lower classes. Practitioners in those classes can only do with a visualized consort. However, once the practitioners are promoted to the Highest Yoga Tantra, they are authorized to practice karmamudra using a real sexual partner.

The different thoughts and practices of Tantric Buddhism concur that certified tantric practitioners, among them ex-monks who disavowed, are permitted to practice using physical consorts. Furthermore, those who founded Mahasiddha, used them. For instance, Atisa Dipamkara Srijnana, an 11th century Buddhist scholar, observed that the religious dedications that a practitioner can depend on transcend encompass every aspect in the tantra teachings. Even then, some aspects are hazy regarding active monks practicing karmamudra. In this context, a notable example is Tripitakamala; this Buddhist teacher argued that Buddhahood as a rank transcends monkhood pledges.

To wrap up this, the basic requirement for karmamudra practice is tummo or candali. Karmamurda is but a continuation of tummo.

Background of Karmamudra Practice

The Pala Empire, an imperial dynasty in classical India, is hailed as the time when tantra became famous. Vajrayana supplemented the then single way of seeking enlightment, only then believed to be achieved via lovemaking. In her book, titled “Passionate enlightenment”author Miranda Eberle Shaw, states that tantrism also augured well for women as they voiced their concerns in the quest for karmamudra.

The author cites sixteen proven cases where female instructors had male students, with the instructors teaching using upadesa, a spiritual guidance. Moreover, Shaw cites seven tantras, religious scriptures, authored by female religious teachers and which were approved by 8th century Tibetans.

Debate on Karmamudra Practice

Simmer-Brown observes that the range to which karmamudra should have been practiced was a contentious issue in Tibet. Societies out of the range of monkhood practiced predominantly yoga. According to her, the non-monastic practitioners such as Terma and Ngagpa religion followers and inherited lamas affiliated with some schools of thought like Kagyu and Nyingma abstained from marriage and sex. On the flip side, Simmer-Brown adds they repelled monasticism, especially Gelug school which called for good conduct.

In his book titled “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”, American author Jack Kornfield, who is also a Vipassana meditation instructor, cites an anonymous Buddhist scholar; the cited scholar, a female, narrates an aged “realized” lama whose yearly choice of a physical consort was a nun aged between thirteen and fourteen. Upon consulting females who were intimate with lamas, the cited anonymous instructor deduces the karmamudra practice was pro-lamas.

Former Kagyu practitioner and scholar June Campbell, told The Buddhist Review that women have a penchant for being lamas’ discreet lovers; Campbell stated that she was also in such a relationship following the deification of Kalu Rinpoche, a Buddhist lama who passed on in 1989. Based on the interview with the publication, she did not feel misused by then. However, on sober reflection, the secretive nature and lack of equal power had the hallmark of sexual abuse.